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SpaceX’s Starship costs about $2 billion this year




  • Elon Musk expects SpaceX to spend about $2 billion on its Starship rocket development this year, as the company pushes to build on its first launch earlier this month.
  • “My expectation for the next flight would be to reach orbit,” Musk said Saturday.
  • The Starship aircraft took off from the launch pad and achieved several milestones, but Musk gave more details about a number of the problems the rocket suffered.

The SpaceX starship lifts off from the launch pad during a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20, 2023.

Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images

Elon Musk expects SpaceX to spend about $2 billion on its Starship rocket development this year, as the company pushes to build on its first launch earlier this month.

“My expectation for the next flight will be to reach orbit,” Musk said during a discussion on Twitter Spaces on Saturday.

While SpaceX does secondary rounds about twice a year, to give employees and other company shareholders a chance to sell shares, Musk said the company “doesn’t expect to need to raise financing” to further bolster the Starship program and its other ventures.

“As far as I know, we don’t need to raise incremental funding for SpaceX,” Musk said.

As for the dramatic first full-stack Starship rocket launch on April 20,” the SpaceX chief said, “The outcome was about as expected, and maybe a little bit above my expectations.”

SpaceX has several more prototypes in various stages of assembly and aims to launch its next attempt to reach space with the towering rocket within a few months.

“The goal of these missions is just information. Like, we don’t have a payload or anything — it’s just to learn as much as possible,” Musk said.

He put the probability of reaching orbit by a Starship flight this year at “probably” 80%, but stated that he believes there is a “100% chance of reaching orbit within 12 months.”

Starship will launch for the first time on its Super Heavy booster from Texas on April 20, 2023.

SpaceX

The Starship aircraft took off from the launch pad and achieved several milestones, but Musk gave more details about a number of the problems the rocket suffered.

The rocket took off with only 30 of the 33 Raptor engines ignited at the base of the Super Heavy booster. Musk said that SpaceX “chose not to launch” three engines, as they were not “healthy enough to bring them to full thrust. The starship slid sideways off the launch pad as it climbed into the sky, which Musk said was “due to the engine failures. “

About 27 seconds into the flight, SpaceX “lost communication” with another engine — an event that occurred “with some sort of energetic event” that removed the heat shield around several other engines. “Things really hit the fan” around 85 seconds after launch, when SpaceX lost “thrust vector control” – or the ability to steer the rocket.

In addition, Musk reported that it took about 40 seconds for the rocket’s AFTS (Autonomous Flight Termination System, which destroys the vehicle in the event it flies off course) to kick in, something SpaceX must correct before the next launch attempt.

The strongest part of the rocket’s performance was how well it held together, including passing through a launch milestone called “Max Q,” or the moment when atmospheric pressure is strongest on the rocket.

“The structural margins of the vehicle appear to be better than we expected, as we can see from the vehicle that actually somersaulted toward the end and still remains intact,” Musk said.

Looking ahead, Musk said SpaceX has “made so many improvements” to future prototypes. The company must ensure “that we do not lose thrust vector control” with the next launch.

Members of the public walk through a debris field at the launch pad on April 22, 2023, after the SpaceX Starship lifted off on April 20 for a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images

Back on the ground, Musk said the booster created a “rock tornado” under the rocket as it lifted off. Although SpaceX has not seen “evidence that the mountain tornado actually damaged engines or heat shields in a material way,” Musk noted that the company “absolutely did not expect” to destroy the launch pad’s concrete and create a crater in its wake.

“One of the more plausible explanations is that … we may have compacted the sand under the concrete to such an extent that the concrete effectively buckled and then cracked,” Musk said.

A priority for the next flight will be to start the 33 Raptor engines “faster and get off the pad faster,” Musk said. It took about five seconds for SpaceX to start the engines and launch the rocket, which Musk noted “is a very long time to blow up the pad.” The company aims to halve this time until the next attempt.

A cloud of dust rises beneath the Starship as the rocket launches on its Super Heavy booster from Texas on April 20, 2023.

SpaceX

Images of the aftermath have shown the violent output of the Super Heavy booster’s engines. A report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service said the launch threw concrete and metal “thousands of feet away” and created a cloud of dust and pulverized concrete that fell as far as 6.5 miles from the launch site.

On Saturday, Musk said “the damage to the pad is actually quite minor” and should be “repaired quickly.” He estimated that the necessary repairs mean SpaceX “will probably be ready to launch in six to eight weeks.” SpaceX will replace some of the propellant tanks near the launch pad. The 500-foot-tall tower “is in good shape,” with “no meaningful damage” although it was hit by “some pretty big chunks of concrete.”

Musk believes the biggest obstacle to flying again is “probably requalification” of the AFTS that destroyed the rocket, since “it took far too long” to detonate.

SpaceX is moving forward with a plan to put steel plates, which will be cooled by a water system, under the launch tower for the next Starship rocket.

Environmental activists and scientists have sounded the alarm about the cloud of pulverized concrete and dust that the launch created. Musk claimed the debris was “not toxic at all,” but said “we won’t do it again.”

“To our knowledge, there has been no meaningful harm to the environment that we are aware of,” Musk said.



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